From the pipette to the tablet: the engineer who brings science to chocolate bonbons

Laura Castro (A Guarda, Pontevedra, 1987) he changed the laboratory of the University of Vigo for a pastry workshop. From experimenting with food to bringing scientific knowledge to the consumer's palate. The food engineer celebrates one year with an entrepreneurial project with which she translates into chocolate products the skills acquired in the Food Technology Degree, which she studied at the university. It shapes the theoretical dogmas and applies food science to chocolate and the different products to distribute a 'delicatessen' with optimal quality.

His studies were a window to the world of the food industry and after winning a scholarship in the confinement of 2020, he decided that it was time to take the step, that leap to entrepreneurship that he needed. Laura remembers that “I knew that my contract was ending and I was considering what I was going to do next if I chose to continue in the world of research in public organizations such as the university or other private ones. That was when I saw a video on the internet where they manipulated the chocolate and they did it with tools that I used in the laboratory such as a rack or a pipette and I thought about my way of working and that of the video. I felt that there was a parallelism and it was then that I began to investigate, take courses and prepare a power point to turn the idea into a possible reality”.

Laura Castro shows seven types of chocolates. BRAIS LORENZO

It was not only putting the creative part into practice, but also designing an economically viable plan to be able to carry out his idea. He trained in the world of chocolate, took courses and also a business plan to present the idea, which he called "The change. Lab vs. Obrador”. Laura says that “the idea developed little by little because I had to train myself in the world of chocolate, but also in managing how to put an idea into practice so that it would be viable. I remember that I saw several webinars to do my power point”.

The formulation of the ingredients, an essential part in the elaboration process


With the business part done and resolved, it was time to investigate chocolate and formulate its ingredients. Laura argues that “when you put yourself into practice is when you experiment with chocolate, because there are different types of chocolate. That's when you realize the potential it has and my research was all trial and error. Try one thing, reformulate, keep trying, and find that flavor or product you were looking for again. It helped me to be more careful and carefully prepare my products. Because a degree or two more, it seems that it doesn't matter, but the difference in the chocolate is very noticeable or, for example, the percentage of water that one chocolate or another has also varies in the fine product.l, as well as the fusion that is made with the filling for the elaboration of my chocolates, where each one has specific needs and properties”.

Laura Castro's chocolates, at the Tu Recreo Pastry Shop in Ourense. BRAIS LORENZO

From the laboratory to the workshop

Laura starts with quality raw materials, because if she has learned anything, it is that starting from quality, you arrive at quality. The enthusiasm in the entire entrepreneurial project starts from a video, is developed with tenacity and is put into practice in the Pastry Your Recreation of Ourense, where the different chocolate products of the engineer are distributed and where she herself paints the exterior to suggest the consumer.

For the elaboration of the chocolates, the first step is to formulate all the ingredients in an excel sheet where each quantity matters, each percentage is essential and where the perfect amount of each ingredient is essential to produce the best product. Laura explains that “for each bonbon I look at the percentages of each ingredient, since it is essential to play with the quantities to achieve an optimal product. For example, for one bonbon or another, the amount of sugar, cocoa or protein it may have is not the same and when I have the complete formulation in Excel is when I put it into practice in the workshop”.

The word that best defines their day to day is fun. She says that the hours fly by with the formulation and also when she makes her chocolates. He even lets out a joke: "I had to learn not to stain myself with chocolate, at first I had more chocolate on the outside than inside."

Laura Castro in her workshop with molds for the chocolates she produces. // BRAIS LORENZO

For the production of chocolates, which are its special dedication and its distinguishing mark, it takes three days. The first one prepares the outer part, which is the chocolate that he is going to use, the second the filling that he wants and the third one fuses both according to the percentages that he stipulated in the computer. He clarifies that “I do not always have the flavor I want or the texture I want, that is why I go back to the formulation and remove a higher percentage from an ingredient or add it to it, so that I get the optimal result, the one I want”.

The science applied to chocolate by the guardesa was going to be presented at a chocolate fair in Madrid with four chocolates one with chestnuts (Ourense), another with Albariño (Pontevedra), another with almond cake (A Coruña) and another with Cebreiro cheese (Lugo) But it was suspended due to the pandemic. Chocolate and Galician gastronomy are scientifically associated to melt on the palate, an exquisite mixture that was distributed "very well" during last Christmas and to which are added other flavors such as blackberry, lemon or Mel do Salgueiral, awarded in 2021 in an international competition in London.

A year ago Laura moved her UVigo laboratory to the Tu Recreo Pastry shop with a solemn projection and now looks to the future with other projects underway like another chocolate with wine from the Ribeira Sacra, the launch of its website and the implementation of a point of sale in his hometown in A Guarda. Laura resists Mirabel's hottie (typical fruit of A Guarda) and when the percentages are mathematical and he finds his flavor, he will present it to his neighbors so they can savor the science of chocolate.


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